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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Real Healthcare Reform, Texas Style

I recall an Ob-Gyn based in Texas telling me almost a decade ago how terrible the litigation was in Texas which made it undesirable to practice in the state. No new doctors wanted to move there, and in fact, many were moving out. Then in 2003, the state introduced fundamental tort reform and the results were astounding. As the WSJ points out,

Before the reform, Texas was a kind of holy place on the tort bar pilgrimage. Now it’s a Mecca for doctors, especially the emergency physicians, obstetricians and surgical specialists who elsewhere can face blue-sky malpractice premiums. Liability rates have fallen by 27.5% on average since 2003. The number of doctors applying to practice in Texas has increased 60%, even as the overall population grew by 14%.

All of this is helping to end an acute Lone Star physicians shortage, especially in rural areas. Twenty-three counties now have their first E.R. doctor, 10 their first OB-GYN. Hospitals are reinvesting the malpractice savings in scarce services like neurosurgery and neonatal units and expanding access to care. This Texas success has opened eyes in nearby Oklahoma, where even Democrats have been forced to agree to some legal reforms.

Amazing - and the state didn't have to take over the entire industry and spend trillions of dollars to do it.